Tom Coates notes that our everyday multitasking hassles may be killing off creativity. These thoughts are part of his commentary on the excellent NYT article about iPod and the process of its creation at Apple, which according to the article took only 6-9 months. Tom writes:

The process [of creating the iPod at Apple] seems to me to have been successful in producing something coherent and clean almost because of its brevity. In my experience, three months is about as long as you can reliably expect any individual person to care about their part of the project more than they care about anything else—even if they’re given total free space not to have to think about anything else (multi-tasking is the evil enemy of creativity in my opinion). Only clear delineations between stages in a project (and strong management over those transitions) can really help maintain people’s levels of constructive engagement if you need a project to go any longer.

I agree with Tom that even though multitasking cuts the creative process short, full personal devotion to a single task is always temporary. Tom’s thoughts also made me wonder, is there due appreciation of transitions between exploratory multitasking and focused concentration in companies? My feeling is that those who manage innovation should encourage their people to make such transitions—meaning really moving physically—from a focused setting to a multitasking setting and back again. (These musings link to some other thoughts about “critical transitions”).

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